Friday, January 22, 2010

Attitude in Swordsmanship (a summary introduction)


Fearlessness. Courage. Audacity. Strength. Serenity.

These are facets of the attitude we are admonished by the Masters to adopt when wielding the sword.

Brandish manfully the sword, for it is a cross and a noble weapon. Match it with the gallant heart.1
Master Fillipo Vadi of Pisa


What did Master Vadi mean when he said to brandish the sword manfully? Did he mean this to the exclusion of women, or the physically weak? Adamantly, no (at least that was not his primary point, and it need not apply to us). What he truly means by “manfully,” is to wield the weapon with confidence and authority, for that is what manliness is, and the swordsman without this is lost (male or female).

Conversely, if our heart is not gallant; if we do not wield this noble and sacred weapon with an attitude of confidence and authority, we shame it. Thusly, we shame ourselves.

Serenity is a state of mind as much as an attitude. Serenity is the empty mind allowing the free flow of spontaneous transitions and techniques. A lack of emotion clouding judgment and hindering perception. Serenity is why I disdain the term “emotional content.” Emotion is the downfall of the fighter. These facets are not emotions, but attitudes that the swordsman adopts. In reference to some mistaken assumptions about serenity: the only time a skilled martial artist adopts a passive or defensive attitude is when he is being deceitful. The arts of combat are based in large part upon deception, and therefore one should always be wary of the opponent who feigns such an attitude. But if one can tell the difference, one can dominate the passive or defensive opponent.

It is often forgotten that Strength refers as much to strength of will in combat as much as the strength of body and attack. Unwavering strength of attitude dominates the opponent, as does strength and ferocity of physical attack.

Audacity is, like serenity, also a deeper state of mind as well as attitude. It is the ultimate taking of the initiative; a courageous, driven assault, heedless of the opponent. It is the intrepid fencer taking all opportunity; an energetic attitude. (And people take Master Fiore, with his tenet of Audacia, to espouse a defensive style)

Fearlessness is the utter dismissal of all fear, and courage is action in spite of fear. Fearlessness allows one to be serene and audacious, and vice versa. Courage takes care of the rest.

All of these components are principles of proper attitude that were emphasized, and thought necessary, by the Masters. None are independent when wielding the sword; they all function via one another. Few fights are won without a psychological domination in addition to the physical.

1. Paraphrased translation by Luca Porzio and Gregory Mele.

-C

Copyright Jan. 2010, Casper Bradak

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